WATCH: Baez makes several critical plays, provides insight on trademark swim move


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Javier Baez Photo
Pos: 3B   Height: 6-0   Weight: 190   Hometown: Bayamon, Puerto Rico, (Arlington County Day HS)  
Years Played: 2016 - 2018

CHICAGO — In addition to going 2-3 and scoring two runs, one of which came on his 23rd home run of the season, Chicago Cubs middle infielder Javier Baez epitomized why he should be considered a frontrunner for National League MVP with a fantastic all-around performance against the San Diego Padres on Friday.

When discussing his All-Star second baseman following the Cubs' dramatic victory, Chicago manager Joe Maddon told the media, "I would not mess with that kid's head. He plays on the highest level mentally, and you don't want to interfere with that."

Speaking, of course, on the style of frenetic, unique play that has earned Baez the nickname "El Mago," Maddon clearly recognizes the value that Baez brings to the Cubs across the board.

In addition to tying his career high by smacking his 23rd home run of the year, Baez also made two extraordinary plays that, in retrospect, were especially crucial to the Cubs defeating the Padres.

First, in the top of the eighth inning, Baez fielded a bouncer hit between first and second base and gunned home for a tag out applied by Cubs catcher Victor Caratini on San Diego's Travis Jankowski. The bullet from Baez put Caratini in the perfect position to apply the tag and maintain the Cubs' two-run lead.

Soon afterward, in the bottom half of the same inning, Baez led off with his seventh triple of the year on a hard-hit ball to right that bounced off the wall. Sliding around the tag at third base using his trademark swim move, Baez went on to score on a sacrifice fly from Ian Happ, which put the Cubs up by three and proved to be the game-saving run for Chicago.

When asked to discuss his knack for avoiding tags by way of impressive slides, Baez coyly told reporters, "I don't know. I just react to it. I don't know how I do it, to be honest."

Baez went on to elaborate, saying, "It's baseball instincts, and it's reacting to what you're seeing. Like I said, don't plan it, but, as soon as I see it, I just react to it."

With three of the most important plays of the game in the Cubs' hectic 5-4 win, Baez provided an MVP-esque performance in every facet of the game and lived up to the "El Mago" billing in a major way.

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